Vegetable-tanned leather is a natural material and every piece is unique. We select the highest-grade hides and work with expert, third-generation tanneries to obtain the finest raw materials. Only the best leather makes the cut for our finished products.
When it comes to the strength and quality of leather, the type of hide used determines what the leather will look like.
We always use full grain leather, which is the highest grade available. Full grain leather takes its name from the fact that the hides retain their entire grain (top layer). It’s the strongest part of the hide and it gives the leather a prized natural look, texture and durability. Marks accumulate on the grain over an animal's lifetime, so only the cleanest hides can be used full grain, making these hides the most expensive as they are the hardest to find. We only use full grain hides to ensure we get the finest leather.
These hides have too many defects to be used full grain, so the grain is sanded or buffed to remove the imperfections such as scratches, moles and even freckles. These hides are sometimes then imprinted with a pattern (a corrected-grain, such as saffiano or pebble grain). The leather is not as strong as full grain leather and doesn't look natural, so it is a step down in quality from full grain.
Split is low-grade, inexpensive leather as it’s actually the bottom layer (flesh side) obtained from splitting a hide into two or more layers. It doesn't contain any of the grain at all, so it has low tensile strength and doesn't look natural.
Tanning is the process that changes the animal hides into long-lasting chemically stable leather. There are two main processes that tanners use: vegetable tanning and chrome tanning.
Chrome tanning uses synthetic chemicals (mainly chromium) to tan the leather in only one day. Most of the world’s leather is made using this method, which was invented in the 19th Century to allow for the mass production of leather goods.
We use vegetable tanning, which is a traditional method that was refined by the Italians, Spanish and French during the Renaissance. Only 10% of leather is made using this natural process, as it is more time-consuming to produce and relies on experienced craftsmen to create the vegetable-tanned leather.
Raw hides are placed in pits or barrels with natural tannins from tree barks, roots and flower pods and are left for around 40 days to tan. Only a few tanneries have the capacity, skill and patience to produce vegetable tanned leather but the end result is environmentally friendly and each piece of leather is unique. Vegetable tanned leather changes continuously over time as it develops a patina, much like a tree darkens in the sun.
All of the leather we use is ‘aniline’, which means it has been dyed all the way through - pigmented leather, in contrast, has a coat of paint sprayed on the top and doesn’t appear natural.
We use tannins from natural plant sources including chestnut, quebracho and mimosa. It’s a proprietary recipe developed by the tannery that has been handed down over the generations. The colours produced by vegetable tanning are warm, rich natural colours and the leather has a sweet smell and soft touch.
Natural tannins are available in liquid or powder form, and are obtained from different parts of plants including woods, barks, fruits, fruit pods and leaves. Time is the other key ingredient as vegetable tanning is a craft that requires patience and precision.
Tanning is in the blood of the families that run the Italian and Turkish tanneries where our leather is produced. Every animal skin is different in the same way that gem stones vary with their finesse and flaws: selecting the best hides is a skill that is passed down through generations. Combined with the latest technology, the family-run tanneries still rely on the expertise of the older workers to use their eyes and hands to choose the best skins.
Each of our tanneries is run by the third generation of a family. Our Italian tannery is in the Santa Croce sull’Arno region, the heart of the vegetable-tanning industry in Italy. The tannery is a part of the Consorzio Vera Pelle Italiana Conciata al Vegetale; this label provides a guarantee of the quality of the leather and certifies its Tuscan origin.
Our Turkish tannery’s history began when the founder became an apprentice as a teenager in the 1930s at a small tannery that produced hats made from goat hides. He went on to open his own tannery and by the 1950s he had his four sons working alongside him. Thirty years later they moved their tannery to the site where they still produce hides today.